SEVENTY-ONE deaths in 27 years. According to data collected by Al Jazeera, that is the estimated number of people killed in violence connected to blasphemy allegations. It includes the 12-year-old who lost his life in the town of Hub on Thursday, after a mob resorted to aerial firing in their hunt for a citizen, from a minority community, accused of blasphemy. It includes Mashal Khan, beaten, stomped, and shot to death by some of his own peers at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan last month.
These are just some of the recent events where lives were lost and the media’s gaze stuck around for more than a few days at a stretch. Between them lie many other incidents from which those accused still languish in prison, or where injuries were caused, people were forced to relocate, and only their homes, and not their bodies, were burnt down. The increasing frequency of such acts can be gauged by the fact that literally days after Mashal Khan’s lynching, a mob assembled in Chitral baying for the blood of another accused.
There are facets common to these incidents: Greed for property, money, or social status trigger accusations, while the deeply held religious beliefs of ordinary people take centre stage to deliver ‘justice’.